Another Year Lost

New York Legislature fails to pass a bill that would make adoptees' original birth certificates available to them.

Tom Andriola July 07, 2014
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The summer solstice is here. The New York State Legislature has left town for the year. The legislative session is over. They’ll be back in January, unless they’re called back earlier to deal with a unique, important issue that needs attention before then. But it won’t be to pass legislation allowing adoptees the right to obtain their original birth certificates, a basic fundamental human right that should be afforded any individual so they can learn about where they come from and who their biological parents are. Or at least who their biological mother is.

Secrets are toxic. Not just on this issue, but on most issues. Circumstances can be difficult, for sure, but in most cases, truth ultimately prevails. And when it does, the pain can be sharp, but it is much more likely to be temporary than not knowing is. Consider a loved one who has had a horrific crime committed against them. Most people just want to know what happened to their loved one. It helps to give closure and allows for the grieving process to occur. There is pain, and then in many cases there is eventually an ability to accept the circumstances and move on. When the truth is not known, the pain continues, and there is no closure. Not knowing keeps that pain alive and well internally, and the toxic buildup from that is unhealthy.

Unsealed Initiative is the advocacy group that has been working hard to have birth records in New York opened up so the truth can be revealed for adoptees and birth parents alike. The group is comprised of a wide array of individuals who are passionate about getting this done: adoptees, birth mothers, birth fathers, adoptive parents, and adoption professionals, among others. This is not a fight driven primarily by adoptees, in fact. Birth parents are also passionate about it because they can’t find the child they placed for adoption in their younger years, and they want to meet them and know that their life turned out okay.

Over the past few months, and really the past few weeks in particular, I have witnessed the frustration and pain experienced by the folks from Unsealed Initiative who have worked so hard to try to shepherd this legislation through the process and convince the naysayers that this is the right thing to do. In the last days of the legislative session, they have seen their bill changed and watered down to allow for birth parents to remove their names from the birth certificate and impede the process of unveiling the truth. And why? Really, why?

We all know that persistence is key. We will eventually persevere. I am optimistic about that. I watched as New York led the way on another fundamental human rights issue: same-sex marriage. Ask any advocate in that fight about the pain and frustration they endured along the way. There was not great hope for a long time, and watching from the sidelines, I was not very hopeful for my friends who were directly impacted by the issue. Up until the very end, there was uncertainty. And then it happened. It went through. And there was jubilation by those who fought the fight for so long.

I have hope because I don’t believe my basic fundamental human right to the truth about my roots is any less important than that. I have hope because I know that when a just fight is fought with passion and perseverance that the good guys eventually win. Eventually, these legislators will see the light. Eventually, they will come to understand that the truth needs to prevail and that protecting secrets is just not the right way to go. Secrets are toxic, and when they take a step back and think about it in that light, they will change their minds and make the right decision on this issue.

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Tom Andriola

Tom Andriola advocates for adoptee rights and shares his personal experiences about being adopted and his successful, independent search for both biological parents. To see more of his writing, visit Tom's Facebook page.


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